The biggest gift of the iPad to the education space has nothing to do with the iPad, and everything to do with the mediocre tools to manage a fleet of iPads.
Over the last several weeks, as schools have returned to session, there have been a slew of discussions about how to best control the apps on iPads, how to provision student accounts (even though the App store appears to actively prevent mass account creation), how to prevent student work from being wiped out, replacement cycles, and other edge cases as personal devices get shoehorned into an institutional management process.
The stories have been pretty incredible - one school built a Filemaker database (which, even as I say it, feels like a contradiction in terms) to manage redemption codes for apps purchased through the Volume Purchasing Program, and then distributed through the Configurator. Using this custom built system, an app could be requested by a teacher, and it only required around an hour of an IT person's time to push the app to the iPad. One hour to install an app is what success looked like.
Other stories included the Volume Purchasing Program failing unpredictably and intermittently - some of the nicer things said about the Volume Purchasing Program included statements pointing out that you could generally get it to work if you only used Safari, and cleared your cache before every attempted use of the program. This type of flexibility exemplifies the ease of use that Apple is known for.
Some schools do not make an effort to exert centralized control over the devices, and in these situations, the management headaches are often supplanted by fears from teachers and parents that the iPads will be used "inappropriately" for "non-educational" things. It's worth remembering that before technology, students were always perfectly focused, and could never be distracted from doing exactly what the teacher felt was important.
All kidding aside, because centralized control of the devices really aren't possible, more schools have become more open to less control. It's a shift that smartphones started (and that educational experts have been talking about for at least the last 100 years) but the shift definitely gained more mainstream acceptance with iPad adoption.
And people are seeing that great things happen when learners are granted autonomy. And when the iPads are gone, hopefully the autonomy will remain.